State kills Highway 12 hopes
The state has killed any hope that Sonoma County can recoup redevelopment funds to finish the Highway 12 project through the Springs.
Three times the county has submitted the Highway 12 project to the state’s Department of Finance as part of its recognized obligation payment schedule, which it had to do after a state Supreme Court decision dissolved redevelopment agencies statewide.
In a letter dated Monday, Oct. 15, from Steve Szalay, DOFs local government consultant, to John Haig, the county’s redevelopment manager, the state denies $9.5 million in funding for the Highway 12 project along with denying $6.6 million in funding for the Roseland shopping center in Santa Rosa.
The letter is in response to a second, face-to-face meeting county officials had with Department of Finance officials earlier this month.
First District Supervisor Valerie Brown doesn’t know what the next steps will be.
“The board (of Supervisors) will have to decide what we want to do in terms of either moving forward with a lawsuit or backing the project in some other way,” Brown said. “I don’t know what the board will decide. We’re disappointed and we’re going to do what can do to get that project done.”
The project in question includes installation of sidewalks, gutters and streetlights, among other things, in a section of Highway 12 from Boyes Boulevard in the south to Agua Caliente Road in the north.
The first phase of the project from Encinas Avenue to Boyes Boulevard was finished in 2010.
When all the state’s the redevelopment agencies were dissolved as of Feb. 1, the county was just weeks away from putting the project for Phase 2 out to bid. All of the utility undergrounding had been done and all of the rights-of-way had been acquired.
The county sold $15 million in bonds in 2008 to pay for the entire project.
In his letter to Haig, Szalay says, that agreements of contracts between the county and the redevelopment agency are not valid and are not enforceable agreements.
The county’s Oversight Board, that was created to dispose of property and projects from the former redevelopment agency, reentered into a contract for the Highway 12 project, but Szalay’s letter says the Oversight Board had no authority to do that.
And, Szalay’s letter says, “Finance is not allowed to make decisions on the basis of economic viability, public safety or any other socioeconomic factors. We review many projects listed as enforceable obligations that may have substantial merit and potential benefits to the community in which the former RDA resides. Unfortunately, we cannot take these criteria into consideration when making decisions.”